The heart of the city, its most emblematic landmark, the Jemaa El Fna square was declared a World Heritage site by the UNESCO in 1985. With a history as rich and colorful as that of the city itself, the square attracts visitors from far and wide with its mesmerizing ambiance, especially at dusk when snakes charmers, storytellers and dancers compete for attention to the sound of traditional instruments. A place to shop, trade, eat a tajine or other more exotic delicacies, Jemaa El Fna is the unforgettable quintessential Marrakchi experience.
Completed at the end of the 12th century, its minaret rises to 77 meters and stands near the entrance of the Jemaa El Fna square as the beacon of the Marrakech. An impressive sight up close or several kilometers away looking down from Mohammed V boulevard with the Atlas Mountains in the background, the Koutoubia and the gardens surrounding it are well worth a visit, especially at sunset when it takes on a magical glow.
Designed by the French artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920’s and opened to the public since 1947, the twelve acres botanical garden host an important collection of cacti, several fountains and more than fifteen species of birds indigenous to North Africa. Purchased in 1980 by the French fashion designer Yves St-Laurent, the garden is also home to the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakech. The garden is also known for the extensive use of a strong shade of cobalt blue on its buildings, now known as Majorelle Blue.
Located in the center of the Medina, near the Ben Youssef Madrasa, the museum is housed in a palace built in the 19th century. It has been in operation since 1997 and features both contemporary and traditional Moroccan art and possesses a fine selection of historical books, coins and pottery. The building itself is filled with rich, ornate stucco work and has one become one Marrakechâ€™s most popular attractions.
Located near the Mellah neighborhood, The Bahia Palace will impress visitors with its gardens and the quality of craftsmanship found throughout the building, reputed to be one of the finest in Morocco.Taking seven years to build, involving hundred of skilled tradesmen from far and wide, the palace lives up to its name, brillance in Arabic, with its rich, ornate courtyards and private apartments featuring various decor. In a city and a country of many palaces, Bahia Palace should be at the top of anyone's list of places to see.
The Ben Youssef Madrasa is an Koranic school open to the public since 1982. Built during the 14th century, it was one of the largest religious institution in North Africa and could accommodate up to 900 students. Located in the very center of the Medina, next to the Ben Youssef mosque, its courtyard features several geometric patterns and inscriptions carved in cedar, stucco or marble. A site well worth a visit for the richness of its architectural details and its serenity.
Built in the 16th century, rediscovered and excavated in 1917, the Saadian Tombs were designed as a mausoleum for members and rulers of the Saadi dynasty. Located at few minutes walk from Bab Agnou, the Tombs are next to the El Mansour mosque. Surrounded by a garden and featuring three rooms, the Saadian Tombs are a fine example of Islamic architecture, of skillful calligraphy and intricate geometric patterns carved in wood, marble and stucco.
The El Badii Palace was built at great expense in the later part of the 16th century by a Saadian king to celebrate a victory over the Portuguese. It was gutted of most of its materials and magnificence 200 years later by the sultan Moulay Ismail in order to build his new imperial city, Meknes. Today, even though only its walls remain, thousands of people every year walk its grounds, imagining what it must have been like with its 350 rooms.